Apple's effort to innovate in education takes another small step forward today as the company extends its offering to international educators.
This may not mean too much to some people, but could be a really big deal for educators, particularly in countries with limited education budgets as world class resources are available to anyone using a Mac, iPad or iPhone across most of the planet.
At best, education is about giving pupils the tools they need for personal empowerment and self-realization; at worst it's about teaching children to toe the line. Apple's history shows it values the first, Steve Jobs once observed:
"Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you, and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use."
Education is a tool people can use to help realize their ideas in order to influence their reality. Apple's attempt also includes tools teachers can use to deliver training. iTunes U Course Manager lets educators share their lessons directly with their own students or students worldwide via iTunes U.
"iTunes U Course manager also gives teachers the ability to integrate their own documents as part of course curriculum, as well as content from the Internet, hundreds of thousands of books on the iBooks Store, over 750,000 materials from existing iTunes U collections, or any of the more than one million iOS apps," says Apple.
While the impact of these tools may not be obvious, and many students and teachers on a global basis will remain unable to purchase the iOS devices they need to make use of these resources, it's easy to see these as steps toward the vision Steve Jobs held to transform the education industry.
"Jobs had his sights set on textbooks as the next business he wanted to transform…his idea was to hie great textbook writers to create digital versions and make them a feature of the iPad," reveals Walter Isaacson's 'Steve Jobs' bio.
Jobs also thought the certification process for textbooks in the US "corrupt" telling his biographer, "but if we can make the textbooks free and they come with the iPad, then they don't have to be certified. The crappy economy at the state level will last for a decade, and we can give them an opportunity to circumvent the whole process and save money."
That vision is being realized.
iBooks Textbooks now covers 100 percent of the US high school core curriculum and the GCSE core curriculum in the UK. The extension of the service to additional countries should help deliver better education to more people more effectively, along with creating opportunity for private study.
“We believe resources like iBooks Textbooks represent a monumental shift in learning because they engage multiple capacities of each individual student,” said Miguel Dominguez, Marketing Director of Imaxina Novas Tecnoloxias in Spain.
The interactivity of these tools creates new opportunities for textbook publishers to deliver rich and immersive educational experiences using devices children actually relate to. Teaching is much easier if students are engaged with both the educational topic and the educational tools.
"Technology is nothing," Jobs said once. "What's important is that you have a faith in people, that they're basically good and smart, and if you give them tools they'll do wonderful things with them."
Got a story? Drop me a line via Twitter or in comments below and let me know. I'd like it if you chose to follow me on Twitter so I can let you know when fresh items are published here first on Computerworld.